Ambassador Thomas Nides said that he doesn’t want to “inflame” the political situation.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
The new American ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides said he will “absolutely not” visit communities in Judea and Samaria in his first interview as envoy with a Hebrew-language newspaper on Friday.
In the interview, which was published in the weekend edition of Yedioth Ahronoth, the ambassador was asked if he might visit villages over the so-called Green Line, which President Biden has called “impediments to peace” with the Palestinians throughout his long political career.
“I absolutely will not,” he answered.
The former assistant secretary of state under president Obama gave a reason for his refusal, which is a return to the status quo after the openly pro-settlement actions of his predecessor, Ambassador David Friedman, who attended several official events in such villages.
“Just as I’ve asked both the Palestinians and Israelis not to do anything that would inflame the situation, that’s how I act myself. I don’t want to do things intentionally that would create disrespect or anger among people,” Nides said.
“I know I’ll make mistakes,” he added, “that I’ll say things that will aggravate people. I’m sure that in this interview, I’ll say something that will aggravate someone. But to intentionally anger people? Not me.”
Although he said he has “no ideology” when it comes to Israel, Nides is a firm supporter of the two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, just as Biden is. He told the paper that he believes that “Israel will be strengthened” by giving up parts of the country to establish a Palestinian state, and that is important to him.
“All I care about is that Israel will remain a strong, democratic and Jewish state,” he said.
In addition, “The Biden administration believes it must take care of the Palestinian people. That is the difference between us and the Trump administration.”
In this context, Nides affirmed that the White House still intends to reopen its consulate in Jerusalem , which served as an independent conduit to the Palestinians for decades before it was closed down by Trump. Its activities were incorporated under the authority of the U.S. embassy when it was moved to Jerusalem in 2018.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has stated numerous times that his government will not give permission for such a move.
Nides, who is Jewish, is considered a friend of the Jewish state. Notwithstanding his resistance to visiting Judea and Samaria, he has openly and officially gone to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, which is something that no American ambassador had done before Friedman during his term in office.
Barely a week after his arrival in late November, Nides lit Chanukah candles at the religious site in a formal ceremony, calling it an “honor” to be there, “at the foot of the very site of the Chanukah miracle.” He also mentioned how he had briefly worked in Kibbutz Ein HaShofet as a 15-year-old, during a trip to Israel, which he said “shaped part of my Jewish identity.”
In Friday’s interview, Nides made a point of declaring, “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and the American ambassador works and lives there.”